Covid Variant in U.S.; Biden to Speed Vaccinations: Virus Update

The Covid-19 variant discovered in the U.K. has arrived in Colorado, the state’s governor said on Tuesday. And U.S. President-elect Joe Biden criticized vaccine-distribution efforts under President Donald Trump as too slow,repeating his pledge to deliver 1 million doses a day after he takes office.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease doctor said the country’s vaccination rate is lagging and expressed concern about a post-holiday coronavirus surge. The doctor, Anthony Fauci, said on CNN that U.S. officials had hoped to have more people vaccinated by now.

The European Union will take an additional 100 million doses of the vaccine developed by BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc. A new strain of the virus that’s taking hold in the U.K. is a potential “game changer,” according to Ireland’s health minister. Denmark extended its lockdown by two weeks.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases reach 81.7 million; deaths surpass 1.7 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 4.6 million shots given
  • Coviddeath toll to reach 400,000 before Trump departs, CDC says
  • Argentinakicks off vaccination drive with Russia’s Sputnik
  • McConnell rebuffs Trump, Democrats by blocking $2,000 aid checks

Subscribe to adaily update on the virus fromBloomberg’s Prognosis teamhere. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on coronavirus cases and deaths.

Covid Variant Is Found in Colorado (6 a.m. HK)

Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced the state’s first case of the Covid-19 variant that was discovered in the U.K. It’s the first time the strain has been found in the U.S., according to the Washington Post.

The person infected is a male in his 20s who is in isolation in Elbert County and has no travel history, Polis said on Twitter. He will remain there until cleared by public health officials.

Biden Says U.S. Needs Faster Response (5:45 a.m. HK)

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden slammed the slow rollout of the coronavirus vaccine by President Donald Trump’s administration Tuesday, saying the plan was falling “far behind” where it needs to be.

“As I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute the vaccine is not progressing as it should,” he said. “If it continues to move as it is now, it’s going to take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.”

Biden listed his plans to speed the project, what he called one of the biggest operational challenges in decades. He said he would invoke the Defense Production Act to help ramp up vaccine production and repeated his vow to distribute 100 million doses of the vaccine in his first 100 days in office.

More than 2 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the U.S. since the process began on Dec. 14, according to a nationwide tally by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

California Extends Emergency Orders (5:30 a.m. HK)

California extended stay-at-home orders for the southern part of the state and the San Joaquin Valley as hospital-bed capacity continues to lag behind demand. Residents are urged to stay in their homes except for essential tasks, the state’s secretary of health and human services, Mark Ghaly, said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters.

Hospitals are running out staff, using rooms they wouldn’t normally use for patients and the sick are experiencing long wait times in emergency rooms, Ghaly said. “We could see the worst of it in early January and many of the hospital leaders I talk to are bracing just for that.”

N.Y. Shortens Quarantine Period (3:50 a.m. HK)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shortened the state’s quarantine guidelines to 10 days from 14 to align with recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The rule applies to people exposed to Covid-19 who have not tested positive. Those individuals can end their quarantine after 10 days without a testing requirement as long as they have no symptoms, Cuomo said Tuesday.

The state reported 11,438 new cases of Covid-19, or 7.14% of those tested on Monday. Positivity is highest in Mohawk Valley, with 9.11%; Finger Lakes, 8.66% and the Capital Region, with 8.6%.

New York City had 4.96% positivity on Monday, among the lowest of the state’s 10 regions, with its Staten Island borough reporting the highest percentage and Manhattan the lowest.

The state’s total hospitalizations continue to climb, to 7,814 as of Monday. That’s double the total at the start of December. At least 124 people died, continuing a more than weeklong string of 100-plus daily fatalities.

France Considers Earlier Curfews (3:35 a.m. HK)

The French government is considering earlier curfews in parts of four regions on Jan. 2, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on France 2 television Tuesday. Following consultations with local authorities, the curfew may be brought forward to 6 p.m. from 8 p.m. in areas where hospitals are full, the minister said.

The new curfew will apply in some cities and counties of the Greater East, Burgundy, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur regions, he said. While a recent lockdown and the current closure of restaurants, cinemas, theaters, museums and amusement parks has reduced daily infections, the number is still too high, Veran said.

Denmark Extends Lockdown (2:30 a.m. HK)

Denmark isextending a lockdown imposed before Christmas to fight the spread of the pandemic, which the government says is now more dangerous than during the spring.

Shops, restaurants, gyms and schools will stay closed until Jan. 17, two weeks longer than initially planned, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in Copenhagen on Tuesday. Danes should continue to work from home to the extent they can, she said.

Though the rate of infections recently slowed slightly, with an average of about 2,600 daily cases over the past week, the number of people needing intensive care at Danish hospitals has risen significantly.

NYC Vaccinates More than 67,000 (12:05 a.m. HK)

New York City had administered 67,116 Covid vaccine doses as of Monday night, about 17% of the total delivered to the most populous U.S. city.

“That’s just a beginning; you’re going to see so much more,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday at a press briefing.

The vaccination effort will lead the way for the city of about 8.5 million to recover from the outbreak, de Blasio said. In the meantime, New York continues to fight a second wave.

The city reported a 7.45% positive rate of Covid-19 tests, based on a seven-day average, up from less than 3% in November. The city’s rate of hospitalization climbed to 3.93 per 100,000 residents, above a goal of 2 per 100,000; and its seven-day average of new daily cases is 3,390, well above a goal of 550.

De Blasio warned that the numbers are “a little unusual” because of different testing patterns during the holidays.

EU to Get More Pfizer Vaccine Doses (11:20 p.m. HK)

The European Union will take an additional 100 million doses of the vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet. That will bring the union’s total to 300 million.

Dutch Cases Drop; More Are Hospitalized (10:16 p.m. HK)

The number of coronavirus cases in the Netherlands fell in the past seven days, according to health agency RIVM. In the week ending Dec. 29, 67,388 new Covid-19 cases were confirmed, down from the 82,340 reported in the prior seven days. Still, the number of deaths and patients admitted to intensive-care units climbed from the week before. In a separate report, Dutch statistics office CBS said the total number of fatalities this year up to last week was more than 162,000, with on balance a total of 13,000 excess deaths over that period.

Ireland Weighs Tighter Restrictions (9:26 p.m. HK)

Ireland’s government will meet on Wednesday to weigh tighter restrictions to limit the virus’s spread, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told RTE Radio. New restrictions may include closing non-essential stores and further restricting house visits, he said.

Hospitalizations have surged 75% in the past week, Donnelly said, as newly diagnosed cases spiral. Any new restrictions would come less than a week after the government closed restaurants and banned inter-county travel. The new variant, which may be more contagious, is a potential “game changer,” Donnelly said. The minister spoke as Ireland’s vaccination drive got underway.

Fauci Says U.S. Lags in Vaccination Levels (8:48 p.m. HK)

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said officials had hoped to have more people immunized by now. “We certainly are not at the numbers that we wanted to be at the end of December,” he told CNN. “I believe that as we get into January we are going to see an increase in the momentum, which I hope allows us to catch up to the projected pace.”

Moncef Slaoui, the Operation Warp Speed science officer, said on a call just prior to Christmas that shots weren’t getting into people’s arms as quickly as he’d thought. About 1 million doses had been administered as of Dec. 23, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, trailing the pace of distribution.

— With assistance by Dan Reichl, Stacie Sherman, Christopher Palmeri, Emma Kinery, and Nancy Cook

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